Someone had posted this in Facebook today. And for that 10 minutes, it was my own grandmother that I was thinking of. Yes, my own Ma-ma.
You see, when my brother and I were kids, we were sent to my grandparents' during our school holidays. My parents said it would be good for us to spend some time with them and keep an eye on the old folks. Ma-ma is only about 4 feet tall, and Yeh-yeh was touching 5'10". I could be mistaken, as I was a lot shorter than Ma-ma then.
As usual, instead of us helping out with the household chores, my grandparents doted on us both. We were only allowed to take the garbage out only if we insisted on doing it for about 5 minutes.
Ma-ma cooked for us, she washed our clothes. She didn't like washing machines. Yeh-yeh, well, he was the entertainer. He taught us many card games and bought us candy.
In the evenings, sometimes Ma-ma would allow us to join the cousins in a quest of spider hunting. We'd keep them in our clear candy jars and make them fight each other. Yeh-yeh would watch with that smile he always had.
It was no secret that my brothers and I were always their favorites. We were well-mannered (Daddy would punish us if we weren't, anyway) and very obedient. If we weren't allowed to do something, we wouldn't do it. As far as I can remember, neither of us have ever been told off by my grandparents before. The cousins, well, that's a different story.
When we were much younger, they lived in a village house with no running water or electricity. My parents would take us to visit on weekends. Sometimes, we even get to stay over. The raw cement floor was always cool and clean, thanks to Ma-ma's incessant habit of cleaning. Leftover food was kept in a mesh cupboard that stood on stilt legs; they kept the mice and flies out.
I was quite a princess even at the age of 3. I couldn't stand the heat at night as there was no electricity to power a fan. And I was prone to mosquito bites. Ma-ma and Yeh-yeh would sit by our cots and fan us both, make sure we weren't sweaty and the moquitoes didn't bother us. In the day, Yeh-yeh would get ice cool water and Ma-ma would boil it for my daily baths.
We were usually confined to the house, as there were dangers lurking outside. Once, I was running outside in the dirt, one of the chickens pecked at my little toes. I ran away screaming and in tears. The geese would also threaten to attack us sometimes. Besides, there were all sorts of bugs and insects that we'd be gullible enough to catch and bring home, poisonous or not.
They'd take us out to feed the chickens and ducks and geese. Or simply to look at the chicks. Yeh-yeh would allow me to help collect the eggs sometimes. He'd be the one bearing the lamp at night if either of us needed to pee outside.
Yeh-yeh was 80 when he succumbed to stomach cancer. It was then that Ma-ma's health started to decline. She became bitter and forgetful. There was always something that didn't quite meet her expectations. She needed attention more than ever before.
Sometimes, I think she lived for Yeh-yeh. He must be the great love of her life, her sparring partner. At his deathbed, he was still giving instructions to everyone to take good care of Ma-ma. In his morphine induced state, his instructions had never been clearer.
In the final years before Ma-ma's death, she had lost so much weight and her skin was papery and thin. She bruised easily and it took her so much effort to get dressed to go out that she'd be sweaty and in great pain by the time she was done. Although she could hardly walk, she refused to be pushed around on a wheelchair. She's not an invalid, she'd protested repeatedly.
Still, we remained her favorite grandchildren. My brothers and I were always treated to snacks and candy even after we were grown up and much taller than she was. Long after I returned from China, she asked about my health and work, as if I was back here only for a short holiday. She asks about that one boyfriend she met years ago, when I was 18, and always seemed surprised that we were no longer together.
There were many things that she couldn't remember, recent things. Many things that made her suspicious. Who is that? Why is he here? He is a little boy, surely this young man isn't who I think it is. I put it on the table. Who took it away? Don't open the door, I don't know that person.
11 years after Yeh-yeh, Ma-ma followed suit without gaining consciousness. In so many ways, I was relieved that she was gone. The fact that she held on for 11 years still amazes me to no end. To take a page from countless movies and books, I think that they were meant to be together, from the start. There are no two people in this world who were more right for each other than they were.
Ma-ma said to me, so long ago, that she wanted to be buried a Christian, with flowers at her wake and the sounds of hymns. She never liked the incense and the chanting that came with Buddhist funerals. I regret that it was the one thing that she told only me, and the one thing that I never fulfilled. It was at the morgue that her words came back to me, and I had fought for her wishes.
Yeh-yeh was cremated the Buddhist way when he passed on. His ashes are kept in an urn at a pagoda. Ma-ma and Yeh-yeh, they belong together. And the only way we can reunite them was for her to be cremated and her ashes placed beside his.
Sometimes, I think of them and it makes me laugh out loud. They way she used to tell him off for not helping around the house when he's showing us yet another card game. It was a funny sight with almost 2 feet in height difference between them.
I wonder, now that they're together, if they are the same as I remember.
Friday, April 8, 2011
Friday, January 14, 2011
"What's another word for depressed?" he'd asked me from across the room.
I looked up.
"What does melancholy mean?" I asked him, instead.
In that same instant, we both looked up the word.
mel·an·chol·y/ˈmelənˌkälē/Adjective: Sad, gloomy, or depressed.Noun: A deep, pensive, and long-lasting sadness.
"Melancholy," he let it roll off his tongue.
We were both quiet for a moment.
Finally, he said, "That's a lovely word. Exactly what I was looking for."
Monday, December 27, 2010
It was good to see you again in the moments before I wake.
In reality, being there with you would've been a nightmare.
But hearing your voice again after such a long time had a smile plastered on my face the entire day.
Wherever you may be right now, I just want you to know that I wish you well.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Dear Andreas, Nico, Hans Peter, Jan and Gregor,
Thank you so, so much for making the shoot such a breeze.
It was a very pleasant few days with you guys. And I've never felt so at ease being on my own with a bunch of people I've just met.
Andreas, you're probably the nicest producer I've ever come across.
Thank you for that token; you really shouldn't have. It was my job to assist you and you've made it so easy for me.
I look forward to working with all of you again.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Yes, the hard disk from my ancient iBook is finally dead.
After God-knows-how-many years.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
I hate her hairstyle in this one. Super. Hate. Awful.
Anyway, if you've seen Attack no. 1, I'd suggest you leave this one alone. If not for the storyline (and female lead!) that is exactly the same, then perhaps solely for the bad hairdo.
Beginner tennis player, singled out by the coach (surprise *yawn* surprise) and becomes star player after grueling training.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Being a ji mui all morning is tiring.
Having a 3 year old abuse me is even more exhausting.
No pictures, due to only an hour of sleep before taking the long drive, and then being kept busy the entire day.
Congratulations to Sharon and Cheah.
Next week's destination: Kluang, Johor.
Monday, September 13, 2010
Friday, September 10, 2010
Maaf zahir batin.
Have a good one, people.
No mention about Cina or Melayu or India or Lain-lain, please.
Thank you, and enjoy your holidays.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
So, on this day, we celebrate our Independence from the British Ruling.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
I always feel a little depressed after a holiday.
Coming home, just being at the airport, is like my entire reality comes crashing down on my. Really, really hard.
But all that said, I had a fantastic 9 days.
Well, maybe not the final 3, but it was a pretty good holiday.
Must. Go. On. Holiday. Again. Soon.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Another ASEAN country to check off my list!
Good food, here I come!
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
So, it's no secret that I have absolutely no liking for Angelina Jolie.
I watched this solely because of the good reviews I've heard about it, which I've now forgotten where they came from.
For some reason (hint: lead actress), I couldn't watch this in one sitting. It took me a few days and much mental motivation to watch this movie till the end.
Directed by Clint Eastwood whose first choice for female lead was Angelina Jolie because her face suited the period, I'd say that I might have enjoyed it a lot more if it was, say, Julianne Moore?
Based on real-life events in 1928 Los Angeles, Changeling is the story of Christine, a grief stricken mother whose son had vanished overnight. Several months after the disappearance, she was informed that her son had been found. Alas, it was a mere impostor who was nothing like her own son.
It seemed that everyone except Christine believed that it wasn't her son they brought back. Declared unfit and thrown into an asylum for challenging police authority. Changeling is a true story depicting women in the 20s when a voice is unheard of.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
I was doing some Facebook stalking when I came across an apparent tweet or status update or whatever you call it, about Julia's death.
I was shocked, yes. For when I went to her page, I saw links to newspaper articles with her picture on it.
People don't usually have articles in the newspaper written about them upon death. And this, was a really unpleasant article.
It made me so, so uneasy to read it. I didn't like the things they said in the article.
The last I saw Julia was a number of years ago. And I remember, as a freshman in college, how flattered I was when she spoke to Emily and I, offered us a job.
Here she is, a senior, a model, beautiful. And there I was, an awkward skinny teenager, straight out from high school. Julia, talking to me.
I was awestruck, I have to say.
She was always nice to me, no airs about her.
And that was really all I remembered about Julia.
Then today, the news about her death.
Thank you, for the opportunity almost 10 years ago.
You will be missed, Julia Chuah Sheau Yen (1979-2010).
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
I think I was 21 when I worked on this one.
So old school!
Saturday, July 31, 2010
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
One of the best movies. Ever. Hands down.
You know how every class has a fat kid (no offense, really) and he's really annoying?
Well, that's Russell. Except, he's so cute it's hard to be mad at him.
Just thinking about him puts a smile on my face.
A man ties a thousand balloons to his house to keep a promise to his dearly departed wife.
A boy scout shows up at his doorstep offering his service to help the elderly.
They meet a talking dog and a bird named Kevin along the way.
What else can I say?
A must watch for everyone.
I rate it 11 out of 10.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Is it strange to say that I miss the jungle?
The lack of internet and other things that I'm used to in the city had done me a lot of good, apparently.
With nothing to watch on TV and no internet in my room, I could be sure to be in bed before midnight.
When I wake up in the morning, the air is fresh and the crickets are noisy. I grab some toast and butter before I head to the other side of the river.
By 9am, I'm through with my morning duties and ready for a sit down breakfast with the boatmen.
I eat on time and I get plenty of exercise.
I don't wear any makeup.
I think my time in the jungle has done me a world of good.